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American Kwan Wins 5th World Figure Skating Title - 2003-03-30

American Michelle Kwan has captured her fifth title at the World Figure Skating Championships here in Washington. Kwan is the first American woman to capture five world championships since Carol Heiss did it 43 years ago.

It was Michelle Kwan's night. The 22-year-old American came into the ladies' long program in first place, and the sell-out crowd of more than 16,000 was expecting something extraordinary from her. Kwan did not disappoint them.

Skating to Aranjuez by Rodrigo, Kwan executed her technical elements flawlessly, and every move, every nuance brought thunderous applause from the crowd. Her technical marks ranged from 5.7 out of six to 5.9, with her presentational marks between 5.8 and two perfect scores of six.

By the time Kwan's program came to an end, there was no question who would be world champion. Amid a shower of stuffed animals thrown from the crowd, Kwan had the confident air of a woman who knew she had won.

The victory earned Kwan her 5th world championship, making her the first American woman since Carol Heiss in 1960 to win five world titles. Afterward, Kwan said she was comfortable with her routine, and was still wanting to enjoy the moment. "It was an unbelievable night for me," she said. "The skating felt really strong. I think, for me, I had to take one thing at a time, and just be in the moment and enjoy myself. It's my 10th worlds, and you don't know how many more you are going to have, and, so, you cannot take it for granted."

Russia's Elena Sokolova, who had not competed in a world championship since the last time the event was in the United States in 1998, took home the silver medal. Afterward, the Russian said she was amazed to finish second behind Kwan. "You know, when you are such a long time in coming, just to take part in such competitions, and then you have a silver medal! I just don't know what to think. But I am happy, I think," she said.

The bronze medal went to Japan's Fumie Suguri, her second straight world bronze medal. American Sasha Cohen, who won the Grand Prix title this season, stuttered on a spin, and tumbled on a jump to finish fourth, the same position as last year. Reigning Olympic champion Sarah Hughes of the United States moved up from the short program standings and finished sixth. Next year's championships are in Dortmund, Germany.